Yinka Shonibare MBE (b. 1962)
Works from the Peter Norton Collection
Yinka Shonibare MBE (b. 1962)

Victorian Philanthropist's Parlour

Yinka Shonibare MBE (b. 1962)
Victorian Philanthropist's Parlour
Dutch wax printed fabric covered wood, cast iron, brass, marble, mirror, bound printed books, porcelain, glass, framed works on paper and props
103 x 192 x 209 in. (261.6 x 487.7 x 530.9 cm.) (approximately)
Executed in 1996-1997.
Stephen Friedman Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2000
N. Hynes, "Art for Africa's Sake," Prospect, issue 29, 20 April 1998 (illustrated).
R.J. Preece, "Yinka Shonibare at Ikon Gallery," Sculpture, vol. 18, no. 6., July/August 1999, p. 77.
J. Fisher, "Yinka Shonibare," Artforum, vol. 39, no. 1, September 2000, p. 186.
A. Bristowe, "Yinka Shonibare," CoArtnews Publishing, 2001, p. 10.
eds., "Out of Africa: The Art of a Continent Comes to the South Bank," The Pulse, South London Press, 28 January 2005, pp. 13-15.
J. Gallego, "Africa Remix," View of the Times, no. 1, April/August 2005, p. 139 (illustrated in color).
F. Martin, "In Vogue: Out of Africa," Vogue, 2005, p. 91 (illustrated in color).
R. Skilbeck. "Yinka Shonibare: Colonial Forces," Australian Art Collector, issue 46, December 2008, p. 142-143 (illustrated in color).
London Printworks, Pledge Allegiance to a Flag?, December 1996-January 1997 (illustrated in color).
2nd Johannesburg Biennale, Trade Routes: History and Geography, October-December 1997, pp. 198-199 (illustrated in color).
Birmingham, Ikon Gallery; Oslo, Heine Onstad Kunstsenter; Sunderland, Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art; Sheffield, Mappin Art Gallery; Llandudno, Oriel Mostyn and New York, Brent Sikkema, Dressing Down, February 1999-May 2000, p. 45 (illustrated in color).
London, Camden Arts Centre, Yinka Shonibare, June-July 2000.
Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol Museum, Yinka Shonibare, June-September 2001 (illustrated in color).
Düsseldorf, Museum Kunst Palast; London, Hayward Gallery; Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou; Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno; Tokyo, Mori Art Museum; Stockholm, Moderna Museet and Johannesburg Art Gallery, Africa Remix, July 2004-September 2007, pp. 90-91 and 222, no. 119 (illustrated in color).
Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art; Brooklyn Museum and Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African Art, Yinka Shonibare, MBE, September 2008-March 2010, pp. 39, 150-151 and 214 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

"the idea behind it is to draw a parallel with the relationship between the contemporary first-world and third-world countries. I want to show that behind excessive lifestyles there are people who have to provide the labor to make this kind of lifestyle happen" - Yinka Shonibare MBE

Yinka Shonibare MBE's opulent re-interpretation of a nineteenth century Victorian parlor continues his exploration of the themes of wealth, class and privilege. Featured in his recent internationally acclaimed retrospective, The Victorian Philanthropist's Parlour is one of the artist's large-scale installations in which he peels away layers of our understanding of history to pose questions about the nature of wealth, race and colonialism. With his signature use of rich fabrics Shonibare scrutinizes the signifiers of national identity in the context of Britain's Imperial past. His perceptive depiction of the parlor of a wealthy Victorian gentleman speaks to the complicated and often symbiotic relationship between wealth, trade, nationalism and identity.
Commissioned by London Printworks, The Victorian Philanthropist's Parlour was part of a collaborative project called Pledge Allegiance to a Flag? which examined contemporary attitudes towards the use of national flags in multicultural Britain. With this work Shonibare took the discussion one step further and looked at the notions of national identity that the flag represents. His scene is dominated by his use of 'African' fabrics, one of the artist's signature motifs, and one which he uses to demonstrate the sometimes artificial construction of nationality. Although these designs have become a symbol of 'African-ness,' their origins are much more complex and encompass Africa, Europe and the Far East. Originally inspired by the traditional batik fabrics of Indonesia, cloth of this type was in fact manufactured in the nineteenth century in the Netherlands and the North West of England, then marketed to West African buyers. Since then they have been adopted as a symbol of authentic African identity, both in the African countries themselves and for those who have emigrated to the West, particularly in the post-war period. It is precisely this sense of irony and global interconnectivity that appealed to Shonibare, writing about their tangled trans-continental history, he says, "What that means to me is a metaphor of interdependence" (Y. Shonibare, as quoted by R. Kent, "Time and Transformation in the Art of Yinka Shonibare MBE," Yinka Shonibare MBE, exh. cat., Munich, 2008, p. 12).

In The Victorian Philanthropist's Parlour Shonibare has embellished his fabrics with another potent example of the cross-cultural and cross-national nature of modern identity. One of the central figures in Shonibare's fabric is Basile Boli, a Ghanaian soccer player, who became a French national and subsequently went on to represent France's soccer club, and yet the image on the fabric shows him playing for a Japanese team. As the artist points out, at a certain level, nationality, once thought of as an indisputable notion, becomes a commodity to be traded like other valuable goods, "If you are living in a developing country and you sign for an Italian club for two million, not only are you representing an Italian club, you become an honorary Italian as a result of your football skills and you're free to travel the world, no immigration, no passport controls. When you are performing well you transcend boarders and peoples prejudices but as soon as you stop performing then the racist issues will resurface" (Y. Shonibare, Pledge Allegiance to a Flag?, exh.cat, London, 1996, n.p.).
Peeling away accumulated layers of meaning is what lies at the very heart of Shonibare's work. By combining high art and popular culture in his distinctive way he is able to examine a different depiction of the way society functions. The Victorian Philanthropist's Parlour is the culmination of a theme that has become increasingly important to the artist; an interrogation of the concept of leisure. As he points out, "To be in a position to engage in leisure pursuits, you need a few bob. You need spare time and money buys you spare time. Whilst leisure pursuits might look frivolous, my depiction of it is a way of engaging in that power. It is actually an expression of something much more profoundly serious insofar as the accumulation of wealth and power that is personified in leisure was no doubt a product of exploiting people" (Y. Shonibare, as quoted by R. Kent, "Time and Transformation in the Art of Yinka Shonibare MBE," Yinka Shonibare MBE, exh. cat., Munich, 2008, p. 14).

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